As a church we have been taking this odd and uncertain time to examine who God is and what God does—the doctrines of God. The last few months have been slower (in some ways) than ever before but oddly enough they’ve created new challenges and new ways of exhaustion. The change, uncertainty, and general abnormality of things since the middle of March is the reason why I’ve called the church to focus on details of God. The journey through the various truths about God continues this week with a brief examination of God’s holiness.
For a few weeks, we have been dealing with God’s goodness. God is goodness and He transfers goodness. Very closely related to God’s goodness is His holiness. Here is a key statement that will help set the trajectory of this week’s doctrine: Holiness comes from God.
Theologians often link holiness very closely to God’s beauty, righteousness, goodness, and perfection. At face value, there are thin lines between holiness and the aforementioned aspects of God. Yet, there are distinctions and these distinctions have important and critical implications for the Christian.
Holiness in the Bible is linked to the idea of purity and moral perfection. God is the very reason we have a concept of holiness. Holiness in anything (created) outside of God (the Creator) is simply a derivate of God’s holy nature. In the Old Testament, holiness is generally understood in terms of being set apart. If you know the Old Testament well, you can probably recall all of the persons and things God sets apart (people, places, temples, city, water, etc.), particularly in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. This “setting apart” is done by God alone, as a derivate of His nature alone. God is the only being that can deem something holy and/or form holiness in creation. As with all these doctrines we have examined, it is incredible that God possesses a nature (i.e. holiness) that He decides to communicate to people. This why I personally love the process of learning about God. It is stunning to me that He chooses to operate this way.
More than anything, these Old Testament representations of holiness function to reveal a major implication to holiness: God places persons or objects in special relation to Himself and sets them apart from the world. This is indeed what happens to you in salvation. God sets you apart, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, for special relation to Himself. Yet again, you should now see (by way of your salvation) that holiness proceeds from God.
Furthermore, the Christian is given clear directive on the reasoning for all the talk about God’s holiness. The New Testament is replete with claims to model God’s pattern for holiness (Rom 12:2, Gal 6:16, 1 Peter 1:16, 1 Peter 2:9, etc.) God reveals His holiness in three (general) ways: (1) works, (2) Scripture, and (3) His people. All of these are means by which God moves us along in holiness after salvation. Scripture is primary in the process of holiness, but creation and community are factors.
But here is a more important questions: Why does holiness matter? Why do you hear pastors and preachers and “church people” talk about holiness all the time? Certainly, it’s tied to obedience and the Christian life, but why?
Why Holiness Matters
First, holiness matters because God has contempt for sin. We cannot use strong enough language when describing God’s hatred of sin. We’ll talk more about this Sunday, but Christians are quick to downplay God’s distain for sin and slip into antinomianism. Antinomianism is a five-dollar word for the Christian that lives with the mindset that: “It doesn’t matter how I live or what I do because God’s grace covers it.” Our actions as Christians matter. We are often laced with impure motives and desires, so we need a standard. We need somewhere to go in order to reorient our minds and hearts. God’s holy nature and contempt for sin does this for the Christian.
Second, holiness matters because is drives our desire for sanctification. Sanctification is a major part of the Christian life that begins at conversion and is progressive. Sanctification is an act of God but it also obedience on the Christian’s part to live-out salvation. When God redeems you, there should be a drive to pursue and uphold the “set-apartness” through sanctification.
Third, holiness matters because God delights in it. Proverbs tells us “those of blameless ways are his delight” (Prov 11:20). Holiness is a “heart thing” for both God and the Christians. Peter reminds us that we are to honor Christ the Lord with our hearts because of His holiness (1 Peter 3:15). This is a delight to God the Father when the Christian pursues holiness through Jesus Christ. God wants you to do the right thing, in light of who He is and what He’s done. Christians should take seriously the ability to delight God. Stick around and think about that for a minute—you have the ability to delight God.
And finally, holiness matters because God is worthy of our best returns to him. As with any attribute of God, there is an element of worship involved. The holiness of God is no different because it causes us to worship Him. Worship of God is linked to His worthiness. You worship because God is worthy and God is worthy, in part, because He is holy. Got all that? Worship has been a common theme in many of these blogs and Sunday messages.
I want to be a person that runs after God in every possible way. I want my life to reflect His holiness. I want to take seriously my call to be set apart as a Christian. This call was costly through the blood of Christ Jesus. Redemption is not cheap but its free and it should lead us to a life dedicated to holiness. Stand firm my friends, be the people of God.